On this dayApr 12, 1861

The Battle of Fort Sumter: Beginning of the Civil War

Video | PragerU
Image | Library of Congress

On April 10, 1861, Brigadier General Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard, in command of the provisional Confederate forces at Charleston, South Carolina, demanded Fort Sumter's surrender. Union commander Major Robert Anderson refused. On April 12, 1861, Confederate troops opened fire on the fort. On April 13, Major Anderson surrendered Fort Sumter and evacuated the following day. The bombardment of Fort Sumter marked the beginning of the Civil War: a conflict waged over slavery.

In 1860, South Carolina became the first state to secede from the United States. As more states followed suit and the Confederacy took shape, many federal installations in the South were taken over by state governments.

Alexander Stephens, inaugural vice president of the Confederacy, declared near the war's start that the new government's "foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the Negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery and subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical and moral truth."

The first armed conflict emerged at Fort Sumter, an installation in the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina, that continued to fly the United States flag, even as Confederate forces surrounded it.

The firing on the fort was the culmination of an emerging conflict in which a small garrison of Union troops in South Carolina found themselves isolated when the state seceded from the Union. The firing on Fort Sumter lasted less than two days and had no great tactical significance, but the symbolism was enormous for both sides. Once Fort Sumter was fired upon, the North and South were officially at war.

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